A monumental plan for public input
The announcement last week by the National Park Service was certainly welcome. The agency plans to establish a first-in-the-nation process for involving the community in determining what kinds of events and commercial services should be allowed in Colorado National Monument.
The Park Service and management of the national monument have drawn the ire of many in this community, including The Daily Sentinel, for some of their recent decisions related to special events such as bike and foot races, and the apparent inconsistency in those decisions.
Providing members of this community with a greater voice in how those events are approved or rejected will do a lot toward alleviating that anger, so long as the Park Service really listens to what locals have to say. We’re optimistic that will be the case, based on statements from Park Service officials.
We realize, of course, that listening to local ideas doesn’t mean the Park Service can simply abandon the regulations that govern its stewardship of the lands it oversees. But the legislation that created the National Park Service in 1916 directed the agency to “promote and regulate” the use of lands under its jurisdiction. Allowing special events under prescribed conditions that protect natural resources is one important way to promote areas such as Colorado National Monument.
Furthermore, as the Park Service has pointed out, the national monument is a major economic generator for this area. According to one study, visitors to the monument in 2010 spent an estimated $21 million locally. But the area could provide an even bigger boost to the local economy with additional special events.
National parks and monuments are — as their name makes clear — facilities that belong to the citizens of the entire nation. However, many of the nearly 400 areas managed by the Park Service would never have received special protection if there hadn’t been concerted efforts by people in nearby communities to win that protection.
That’s especially true in the case of Colorado National Monument. John Otto, the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and then-Daily Sentinel Publisher Walter Walker fought for years to get the area named a national park before settling, a century ago, for national monument designation.
Seeking greater input from current community members on how to manage special events in the monument today is a logical action and a reasonable nod to the people who helped establish protection for the monument in the first place.
Kudos to Colorado National Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert, Park Service Intermountain Region Director John Wessels, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and others involved in initiating this effort for including local input. We hope it will become a model for Park Service facilities across the country.